First it was a Time magazine cover that heaped coals of fire on Manmohan Singh‘s head by calling him an ‘underachiever’.
The report which said Singh needed to get out of his ‘personal and political gloom’ to set India back on the growth path, created huge buzz in the country as the media, government and opposition all pounced on it in their haste to react.
The Time magazine report, truth be told, said nothing new. Local media had already been pointing out the same problems with Singh’s administration and the opposition parties had been shouting ‘policy paralysis’ to anyone who would listen.
But somehow an ‘established’ and ‘international’ magazine saying it, suddenly made the issues seem more real and more problematic. It had become embarrassing. Singh was a national shame, letting down India’s good name in the international arena.
And now another one of those ‘international’ publications has got in on the act. The UK based newspaper The Independent has run a report titled, “Manmohan Singh: Saviour or Sonia’s poodle?”
“Once credited with rescuing India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now criticised as a weak underachiever”, it says, explaining that while Singh may be the architect of India’s liberalization, his seeming inability to act, coupled with blind fealty to Congress President Sonia Gandhi may just be his downfall.
Again, no big secret. Political analysts have been telling us all just that for months now. But is calling Singh “Sonia’s poodle” in an international publication justified? While the facts on which they criticize him may be true, he is still the Prime Minister of India and surely the position deserves some respect?
While it may still be something of a shock to see the picture of the Prime Minister splashed across an international publication with ‘underachiever’ or ‘Sonia’s poodle’ emblazoned across it, we’re at a point of time where the media does not shy away from calling a spade a spade, foreign protocol be damned.
And in this age of international news in real time, everyone is fair game.
The British themselves are notoriously irreverent about their own leaders. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was publicly called Bush’s lapdog, especially during the hugely unpopular decision he made to back the US ‘war on terror’ against Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
And Indian media are not overawed by the Prime Minister’s position either. The media famously debated whether or not Manmohan Singh was a ‘lameduck’ Prime Minister, while others have called him a ‘Doormat’. So much so in fact, that he has even stopped reacting it.
But perhaps the international criticism could serve as a wake up call to the premier. The Independent report quotes a close aide of the Premier as saying that he felt the international criticism was unfair. It’s high time he actively did something about it then.